Remembering 9/11 Or Forgetting It?

By | September 11, 2023 | 0 Comments

My wife and I were up at the top of the World Trade Center a few days before the millennium. We spoke to the elevator operators. We saw the servers setting tables in Windows on the World restaurant. We bought Nathan’s hot dogs from the guy behind the counter. We joked with the two women who worked in the souvenir shop.

After 9/11, everyone talked about the employees of major financial firms who died. But what about the hundreds of maintenance workers and others? They were real people with families and friends, hopes and plans. They were Americans.

Does this photo mean anything to you?

Rick Rescorla, chief of security for Morgan Stanley, safely evacuated all 2,700 employees on 9/11, except for six. Four of the six were himself and his three deputies (two pictured above): Wesley Mercer, Jorge Velasquez, and Godwin Forde. That’s true multiculturalism. Rick led his people to safety, shouting encouragement and singing songs through a bullhorn.

Rick was last seen going back into Tower 2 shortly before its collapse. When he was told he should get out, he replied, “As soon as I make sure everyone else is out.” His body was never recovered, but U.S. troops at Fallujah remembered him well:

What about this photo?

The firefighter going up the stairs when most people were going down is Mike Kehoe. From the expression on his face, I would guess that he had doubts about his survival. But he did survive. He got out about 30 seconds before the tower collapsed. But 343 of his fellow firefighters were not so lucky. In order to have survivor guilt, you have to survive.

And this photo?

Todd Beamer was a passenger on United Flight 93. What happened was verified by the telephone supervisor with whom he spoke. They recited the Lord’s Prayer together, and he made her promise to tell his wife and sons he loved them. He then said his timeless words:

God help me. Jesus help me. Are you ready? Let’s roll!

Beamer played a key role in the passengers’ revolt against the terrorists. As a result, the airliner crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, and not into the Capitol Building or the White House, thereby saving many lives. Revealingly, his timeless words were omitted from the film “United 93.” Hollywood doesn’t like to say anything positive about Christianity, even if it is factual.

What about this photo?

Maj. (then Lt.) Heather “Lucky” Penney was with her Air National Guard unit at Andrews Air Force Base on 9/11. When it became clear that we were under attack, she and Col. Marc Sasseville took off in F16s – unarmed because there was no time to arm them. Col. Sasseville said, “I’ll take the cockpit,” clearly implying that Lt. Penney should take the tail. They planned to ram the airliner headed for the White House or the Capitol Building. They knew they would have no time to eject.

But the passengers on United 93 rose up against the hijackers and caused the plane to crash into a field at Shanksville, Pennsylvania, so the pilots’ suicide mission was unnecessary. “Because of what they did, we didn’t have to.”

Later she served two tours in Iraq. Whether we know it or not, our lives depend on people like Maj. Penney – people who risk their lives to make up for the blundering and dithering of chairborne poseurs, paper-shuffling careerists, and political gasbags.

And what about this photo, which resembles the Pietà?

Father Mychal Judge, OFM, was chaplain of the Fire Department of the City of New York. He was ministering to the injured and dead when debris from the tower killed him. He was carried to a nearby church and laid in front of the altar. He was the first recorded fatality of 9/11.

Another priest, Father George Rutler, rushed to the scene. He saw a line of firefighters moving into the building with grim expressions. Realizing that they might not survive, he granted general absolution, as if to troops going into combat – which, in effect, they were. The firefighters knew the risks, but they went anyhow. That is the essence of courage.

In all, at least 2996 human beings died at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania, while over 6000 were injured. The exact total will never be known. Even now, 1113 bodies and body parts remain unidentified. To fail to remember an event of such magnitude suggests some sort of national Alzheimer’s.

If you are beaten up, I have no right to forgive the attacker. But at least I understand what it means to be beaten up. What can I grasp about 9/11?

The attack of 9/11 was not only an act of war. It was also a horribly costly lesson. Let’s not waste it. Let’s use it to relearn what we used to know – the difference between petty anger and righteous indignation. Yes, 19 years later I am still angry about 9/11, and I will be until the terrorist network has been rooted out. Only then can I allow myself to “just get over it.”

The motto of Scotland is Nemo me impune lacessit. It is usually translated as “No one attacks me and goes unpunished.” The Scots render it informally as “Who dares meddle with me?” In the days before political correctness, we Americans used to be even more direct – as witness “The Ballad of Mike Moran.” Listen to it, and remember when America was still America.

We are forgetting who we are and where we come from. We have trouble distinguishing our friends from our enemies. We are losing our identity in a sort of national Alzheimer’s. Such people are easily reduced from citizens to subjects.

We should emulate Lady Liberty. On 9/11 she had her eyes wide open, facing the burning towers. If we hope to remain free, we must keep our eyes open as well, and face squarely the dangers that continue to confront us. The purpose of remembering 9/11 is not merely a history lesson. Like remembering the Holocaust, the purpose is never again.

Wish you were here

Author’s Note:
If these videos don’t move you, check yourself for a heartbeat.

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